Texas Instruments (TI) rolled out its MSP432, a 32-bit alternative to the 16-bit MSP430 family of microcontrollers. It is also a new ARM-based MCU family designed to provide both MSP430 and ARM M0 developers migration paths to a more powerful and feature laden – but low power – architecture.
In order to create this low power architecture, TI built the MSP432 around the powerful Cortex-M4F core architecture (Figure 1) rather than the Cortex-M0 core developed by ARM in 2008 as a 32-bit alternative for licensees targeting applications that used 8- and 16-bit MCUs.
In an interview with EE Times, TI Product Marketing Engineer Mione Plant explained that, when it was first introduced, the Cortex-M0 was a good architecture for the embedded applications that existed at that time. Created to specifically target 8- and 16-bit slots, the 3-stage pipelined M0 implemented a minimum subset of instructions, mostly 16-bit Thumb 1 instructions and some Thumb 2 type 32-bit instructions, with the aim of achieving a very small die size and power consumption.
However, Plant emphasized, the nature of both traditional industrial control applications and new Internet of Things applications require something that is more feature- and compute-rich, as well as low in power.
TI's answer in the MSP432 is to use a 48MHz ARM Cortex-M4F core (Figure 1) as its starting point. In addition to a dedicated floating point accelerator, the MF4 incorporates all the features needed in a more complex connected environment:
- Thumb 1 and Thumb 2 instruction sets, as well as a variety of extensions needed in many new personal electronics devices based for wearable and IoT applications and industrial control
- 32-bit hardware multiply with 32-bit or 64-bit result, signed or unsigned
- Add or subtract after the multiply
- 32-bit hardware divide (2-12 cycles)
- Saturated math support
- A DSP extension with single cycle 16/32-bit MAC, single cycle dual 16-bit MAC; and 8/16-bit SIMD arithmetic.
MSP430 developers will recognize some aspects of the new architecture as a number of resources from that MCU that have been ported to the MSP432 (Figure 2) , including the driver libraries, real time clock, timer/pulse width modulator, watchdog time, JTAG, AES-256, UART/SPI/I2C features, and analog functions such as comparators, voltage reference, temperature sensor, and capacitive touch I/O.
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